KPBS AIRDATE: November, 1995
[MUSIC: “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery” from “Forbidden. Broadway”]
You heard it right from the horse-mouth, Carol Channing (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And satire is one of the funniest forms of comedy. Especially if it’s done well, which it is, musically and politically, in “The Best of Forbidden Broadway” and “The True History of Coca-Cola in Mexico .”
“Forbidden Broadway,” the uproarious musical parody by Gerard Alessandrini, is back in Old Town . Half the material is new… and hilariously funny. Take the spoof of Dustin Hoffman in “The Merchant of Venice.” Singing “The Sounds of Shakespeare,” the Small One lapses helplessly, haplessly, from Shylock to the Rainman and Ratso Rizzo and back again. We also meet Julie Andrews in drag for “Victor/Victoria;” and see the talentless Madonna in a drop-dead knockoff of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow,” macho, machine-gun repartée and all.
Old skewers, newly dipped in poison: the ever-so-clever “Into the Words” and “Less Miserables”; the Chita/Rita duet, a clawing, scratching competition between the indistinguishable Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno; and the Late-Greats duet between those antithetical musical divas, the sweetly off-key Mary Martin and the belting, barnstorming Ethel Merman. The new “Phantom” sendup isn’t as funny as last year’s, but the lampooning of “Aspects of Love” and “Blood Brothers” is to die from.
You don’t have to know all the shows to laugh, and you will laugh plenty, but more in the second half than the first. Like its earlier incarnation, this show should be reduced to a sidesplitting, intermissionless 90 minutes. Then it would be parody perfection.
That’s the length and near achievement of “The True History of Coca-Cola in Mexico .” A veritable tour-de-force for the chameleon-like Ron Campbell (whose one-man “Tale of Two Cities” was a 1991 knockout at the Rep) and Herbert Siguenza, co-founder of the hilarious Chicano comedy trio, Culture Clash.
In a film within a film within a play, written about two naive American artists by two naive American artists, Campbell and Siguenza take on 36 roles. They are making a documentary about U.S. commercial colonialism, symbolized in the ubiquitous coke can, thirst quencher and culture-squelcher of Mexico and the world.
With their jackrabbit changes of costume, voice, accent and gender, they recount 500 years of Mexican history, from conquistadors to curanderos, from dying presidents to beach babes, from Pancho Villa to Adolf Hitler. They even create, solamente en español, an entire mini-episode of a Mexican soap opera, an uproarious telenovela called “Even the Rich Cry.”
The young playwrights, Patrick Scott and Aldo Velasco, manage to skirt sanctimoniousness by lambasting both sides of the border and both sides of all issues, dragging liberal artists and do-gooder documentarians down with them. Director Amy Gonzalez might have reined in her wild-men a bit more, so things don’t tend to spiral out of control. The script could be less silly at times, the comedy less coarse. But these are minor complaints. As binational, border-crossing satire, “The True History of Coca-Cola” is The Real Thing.
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1995 Patté Productions Inc.